Editorial

The “un-democratisation” of the political process

Voters must be extremely careful when exercising their right to vote. They exercise this right only once every 5 years. It is a long period of waiting before they see the consequences of their voting decisions. They cannot recall anyone from among those they have voted for until the term of 5 years is over. In the intervening period, they have to put up with any erratic behaviour of their chosen representative or the government which they have helped to install. They should therefore retain a certain amount of power in their hands over their representatives despite this inherent weakness to which the democratic system exposes them.

 

 

 

This means in practical terms that, in a truly democratic framework, they should send governments to power which will not be in absolute majority. Such a government will feel overconfident and it will be prone to abuse of the power conferred upon it. It will not care about protests made. It will appoint or give favours to its cronies without fear of being rebuked in any tangible manner. The risk represented by this kind of deviation of power can only be controlled by giving slender majorities to whoever is to govern. Governments with slim majorities have in the past delivered results much richer and longer-lasting than those of governments which have been in absolute majority.

In fact, governments with excessive majorities have on all past occasions delivered instability. The instability has been occasioned by inherent contradictions within the larger government group. From the moment the break-up came up each time with such governments, people have been made to live in an atmosphere of perpetual electioneering. This has diverted attention from the work which needs to be addressed by the deputies to a concern about who actually will form the next government. It has kept everybody on the toes until the stability is restored by yet another election. Such unstable governments have forced voters to concentrate on the future of their deputies, which should have been of minor concern in fact, instead of concentrating on the future of the country.

Voters would be well advised to force political parties to prove their worthiness to govern the country to good purpose. If they all voted in one direction, voters will be denying themselves the basic benefits of having a democratic system. They will then usher in an overwhelming one-track majority. That will certainly amount to “un-democratisation” of the political process, if one may coin a word. What will then be the point to look for democratisation everywhere else, excepting the political process? People should have a credible choice between major political groups for the healthy interplay of the democratic forces.

There has been a lot of canvassing made recently for the MMM to join the Labour Party in coalition for the next election. Several notable protagonists have advocated such a coalition. These are actually the two major parties which normally claim voters’ attention in the polls from opposed sides. Together they poll around 90 to 95% of the votes cast. Putting them together will amount to downright denial of a true choice to voters in a land where, it is said, any permutation and combination of political parties is a feasible proposition. Since such a coalition will, in the current situation, hardly come across much opposition, there is every risk that the country will land up with another seriously unstable political situation. We certainly do not deserve this kind of undemocratic situation to emerge.

The only reason such a coalition will be wished for is the seeking after power. Those who find that the Alliance Sociale has been taking the right reasonable right-wing policies in the past years will be comforted by such an alliance. Such an alliance would also in help them “contain” Labour from any departure from such policies to embrace left-leaning policies. For them, its behaviour will become more predictable. It will also make it possible for them to engage in horse-trading on policies, nominations and appointments that matter. Immediate benefits drawn from the exercise of power are more important for such seekers than any propitiation of a truly democratic process. What do they care for healthy debates to ensue and for decisions bearing on the well-being of the entire population to be taken?

But such a coalition may also represent a face-saving device for the MMM in the present circumstances. The MMM has given the impression in the late years of being a party in free fall. Many splinter groups emerged from its traditional fold which either parted company with it or sympathised with parallel other associations. Last year, the MMM even suggested that it would not be having enough funds to properly organise its Mayday rally. Surprising, for a party that has in past elections secured nearly half of the votes expressed at the polls, that its funding may have dried up all at once! Have its funders come to the conclusion that it would be unable to fulfil its specific mission, given the number of old party faithfuls who chose to quit?

On another front, the party could not get a compromise from its natural partner, the MSM, on how to share tickets for the next election. It embarked on an enterprise thence forward to weaken the MSM as far as possible by dismembering the party. This factor embittered relations between the two parties to a point of no return, climaxing in the defeat of the MMM-sponsored Ashock Jugnauth by the MSM leader, Pravind Jugnauth, in the by-election of No. 8. All the devices the MMM mounted in order to compensate for the loss of the MSM, notably the setting-up of several potential Prime Ministers from among its new recruits, fizzled out. Its leader’s enduring lacklustre performance in and outside Parliament has added to its miseries. It is as if his chemistry has stopped working with the party’s traditional electorate. The MMM is at a loss to find its bearings back. A coalition with Labour would wash that out. 

From a democratic point of view, it would have been desirable to have a strong party to vie against the Alliance Sociale in the next elections in order to best serve the interests of the country through effective checks and balances. Looking for a last-minute alliance between the MMM and Labour will amount to a denial of the aspirations of all those who have quit their positions to join up the MMM and wage a legitimate fight against Labour. This is what seeking after power amounts to: some peoples’ hopes and aspirations are better served by being in power at the cost of any principles or previous understandings. If that were to happen, the MMM would be content to become a minority partner with Labour, after having failed to minoritize the MSM in a potential MSM-MMM partnership for the next polls. If it has come to this, the cost to voters in a truly democratic framework is enormous. They will then have to wait to arbiter between the emergent contradictory factions of yet another likely unstable and unduly large government issuing from this year’s elections without anything that may decently be called a respectable opposition. The wait will cost them another 5 years. Hopefully, the seeking after private interests and power will not be all that there will be to the next elections. 

M.K.

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